Picking up phone and placing call back in time

Mark Gambaiana
Mark Gambaiana

More than 20 years melted last week in 59 minutes.

For going on three years, I have been deputy director at Muscatine Center for Social Action, the nonprofit organization that runs the homeless and domestic violence shelters in Muscatine, Iowa, in addition to providing permanent-supportive housing to single men and a Homeless Prevention Program for people who are on the verge of losing their housing. My duties include fundraising, grant writing, marketing, public relations, social media and the like.

This is the job for which I was fortunate enough to be hired after my job as editor of the local newspaper was eliminated in a round of budget cuts and my 24-year journalism career ended.

Since then, the newspaper has restored the editor’s position and recently hired the second person for my old job. And I have continued working hard to learn better methods for helping MCSA. Awhile back, I joined the Quad Cities chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and have been attending workshops and other training opportunities offered by the organization. This has opened my eyes to how much there is to learn, which prompted me to recently reach out to a longtime friend.

When I met Mark Gambaiana back in the late 1980s, he was the sports information  director at Morningside College, where I was a student. For the past 11 years, he has been vice president for advancement at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. The Coach, as many Morningside communications students called Mark back in the day, has come a long way. He moved from the Sports Information Department to alumni relations and then to the development office at Morningside before leaving for a job at Iowa State University and then on to Truman State.

Awhile back, I looked up Mark’s email address, sent him a brief update and asked if he would have time for a mentoring session over the phone. That led to the 59 minutes during which more than two decades disappeared. It was almost as if we were two young guys again, laughing at lunch in the Morningside dining hall at what is now the Olsen Student Center, but was known back then as The Commons.

It’s a common story about human nature: We get busy with careers and families — life. And the next thing you know, more than 20 years have passed. But it’s also the case with old friends like Mark that it really doesn’t matter how many years go by. He offered plenty of encouragement and some great advice. It’s a safe bet it won’t take another 20 years before we catch up again.


A Final Thought: Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with the people who were your friends decades ago. Just yesterday, I chatted on Facebook with a Morningside classmate who liked this. And I’m grateful for this kind of connectivity. But it’s hard to beat spending an hour on the phone with an old friend or mentor. If you haven’t caught up in this way with someone who has been important in your life, you should. You’ll both benefit from it. Trust me on this.